Best of our wild blogs: 24 Aug 18

Fri 24 Aug 2018: 4.30pm – Weiting speaks about Civet ecology and human-civet coexistence @ SR2, NUS DBS
The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Grab to roll out fleet of 200 electric vehicles

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 23 Aug 18;

Grab drivers using the electric vehicles can enjoy preferential charging rates at SP charging stations

SINGAPORE — Grab is the latest transport operator to jump on the electric vehicle bandwagon, announcing on Thursday (Aug 23) that it is rolling out a fleet of 200 new electric vehicles, which will tap utility provider Singapore Power's (SP) fast-charging network.

In a joint news release by Grab and SP Group, the ride-hailing giant said the new fleet will be progressively rolled out in Singapore from early next year. While it did not provide details on the model of the electric vehicle it is bringing in, it said the model has a "sporty style and spacious interior" and has an estimated range of 400km per charge.

Drivers who take up the new model will enjoy preferential electric vehicle charging rates at all SP Group charging stations islandwide and discounted parking at some partner venues.

Specific details will be announced later, when SP Group is expected to set up the first 30 charging points.

SP Group announced in June that it will be installing 500 new charging points across the island by 2020, with the first 30 operational by the end of this year.

Of the 500 charging points, more than 100 will be 50kW-DC (direct current) charging points, which is a fast charge technology that can fully charge an electric vehicle in less than 30 minutes. The rest will run on AC (alternating current), which is a slower charge.

Existing chargers currently run at rates between 7.4kW and 8kW, which can take anywhere between two and eight hours to fully charge an electric vehicle.

SP Group said that the points will be located at shopping malls, residential areas, business parks and industrial sites, among others. In Thursday's release, SP Group added that it plans to install charging points in "close-proximity to coffee-shops and food outlets" to allow drivers to match their charging time with meal and driving breaks.

There are currently 40 electric vehicle charging points owned by SP Group across the island, most of which are located at the firm's depots.

This partnership provides Grab drivers with "greater time and cost savings, maximising daily income", said Grab. As such, they expect drivers using electric vehicles to earn up to 25 per cent more in daily income, compared to those on regular petrol vehicles.

Head of Grab Singapore Lim Kell Jay said: "We have heard from our driver-partners that a faster charge time and longer electric vehicle driving range are important considerations for them when making the switch to electric vehicles. We have taken their feedback on board and have negotiated the best deals to bring them concrete savings and the best vehicle model to cater to their driving needs."

Adding that the company was "proud and happy" to partner with SP, he said that "Grab is in a unique position to help drive a cleaner, greener Singapore by encouraging more of our drivers to adopt electric vehicles".

SP Group's head of strategic development Goh Chee Kiong was confident that the partnership will "accelerate the wider adoption of electric vehicles in Singapore".

He said: "The pervasive fast-charging network will provide Grab's electric vehicle drivers with convenience and speed in charging their vehicles, while helping them to achieve energy and cost savings."

Besides Grab, the other transport operators who have expanded their electric vehicle fleet include ComfortDelGro, which is buying up to 1,200 petrol-electric Hyundai Ioniq Hybrids, which will be delivered by the middle of 2019. The taxi giant also trialled two fully-electric Hyundai cabs in July this year.

HDT Singapore Taxi has also been operating about 100 electric-powered cabs under a two year trial, and had been awarded a full-fledged taxi service operator licence just last month. It has said it will gradually increase its fleet size to at least 800 electric taxis in Singapore within four years.

Other ride-hailing firms in Singapore such as Ryde and Tada declined to comment on whether they had similar plans to add electric vehicles into their fleets.

Grab to introduce 200 electric vehicles from next year under SP Group partnership
Zhaki Abdullah Straits Times 23 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE - Ride-hailing firm Grab will bring in 200 new electric vehicles from next year, as part of a partnership with energy utilities provider SP Group.

Grab announced on Thursday (Aug 23) that the new vehicles - which will hit the roads progressively from early next year - will be available through its rental arm GrabRentals.

Under the partnership, Grab's private-hire car drivers will enjoy preferential rates at SP Group's electric vehicle charging stations and discounted parking for drivers using the charging stations.

The energy utilities provider announced plans in June to introduce a network of 500 fast-charging stations by 2020, with the first 30 to be set up by the end of this year.

These will be placed at areas such as housing estates, shopping malls, industrial sites and business parks.

The Singapore-based ride-hailing firm said it would work with SP Group to study usage patterns of its electric vehicles to improve the accessibility and utilisation of charging stations.

Grab said more details regarding the cost of charging, as well as the electric vehicle models to be used, will be made known by the end of this year.

The firm noted however that the model will have a range of 400km per charge, which allows for a full day of driving on 40 minutes of charging.

Mr Goh Chee Kiong, SP Group's strategic development head, said the partnership with Grab will help "accelerate the wider adoption of EVs (electric vehicles) in Singapore and support the nation's efforts to reduce our carbon footprint".

"With SP joining our consortium of EV partners, Grab is in a unique position to help drive a cleaner, greener Singapore by encouraging more of our drivers to adopt EVs," said Grab Singapore head Lim Kell Jay.

While fully electric cars are already available through Grab, their numbers are not known.

Green vehicles have taken off recently, with the number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars at 647 as of last month (July), up from 137 two years ago.

In February, electricity retailer Red Dot Power announced a partnership with Finnish charging technology firm PlugIT to install at least 50 charging stations by the end of next year.

Electric car-sharing operator BlueSG aims to build 2,000 charging points by 2020, and make 400 of them available to the public.

Taxi giant ComfortDelGro introduced two fully electric Hyundai Ioniq cabs to its fleet last month as part of a one-year trial, while HDT Singapore Taxi will expand its fully electric fleet from 100 currently to 800 by July 2022.

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Tarantulas, geckos and a hedgehog seized from man's home by AVA

Timothy Goh Straits Times 23 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE - More than two dozen animals were found inside a man's house during an investigation by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

Last Wednesday (Aug 15), an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer stationed in the Parcel Post Section of SingPost Centre detected anomalies in the scanned image of a postal article.

According to a Facebook post by the ICA, when further checks were conducted, the authorities discovered 23 tarantulas kept inside tubes.

The case was then referred to AVA for further investigation.

Afterwards, 20 tarantulas, a jumping spider, three leopard geckos, a fat-tailed gecko and a hedgehog were found in the home of the man, a 23-year-old Singaporean.

All the animals were seized and placed in the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

In a statement on Thursday (Aug 23), the ICA said: "The keeping and/or trading of wildlife such as tarantulas is an offence in Singapore under the Wild Animals and Birds Act."

Investigations are ongoing.

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Malaysia: Go all out against illegal foreign fishing boats, says Sabah minister

stephanie lee The Star 23 Aug 18;

KOTA KINABALU: The state government wants the relevant authorities to go all out and catch illegal foreign fishing vessels operating in Sabah waters, and even legal boats using unlicensed methods.

State Agriculture and Food Industries minister Junz Wong said he had received numerous complaints from local fishing communities that they were seeing more fishing vessels from Vietnam operating in Kuala Penyu (some 100km south-west of Kota Kinabalu).

He said even licensed foreign vessels were believed to be using (more destructive) fishing methods apart from those stated in their documents.

“We need the marine and other relevant enforcement authorities to look into these claims and go all out to nab offenders and guard our shoreline which measures over 1, 359km,” he said in a statement here Thursday (Aug 23).

“We hope maritime enforcers can move their machinery and vessels towards areas that are encroached into to prevent offenders from continuing their activities,” he said.

Wong said according to fisheries records, Sabah allowed only 51 deep-sea vessels (operated by 11 local companies) to fish.

He said of those 51 vessels, 18 were locally-made while 33 were made in Vietnam, but operated by locals here.

Only 11 of these vessels were allowed to do fish trawling (pukat tunda), while the others could only use nets or lines - seven vessels are to use in seine fishing (pukat jerut) while 33 use longline fishing (rawai), he stressed.

“From 2015, foreign-made vessels such as those from Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, China and Brunei were no longer allowed to operate in Sabah waters but those which have been used before 2015 are still allowed,” he said.

Wong said deep-sea vessels were only allowed to operate in two zones of Sabah – west coast areas and Tawau. Moreover, they could only operate 30 nautical miles from shore.

However, he said he still received complaints from local fishermen claiming that vessels that were supposed to use only longlines were using trawling nets instead to catch fish. (Trawling catches more fish but it can also result in over-fishing and destruction of corals that act as habitat for marine life.)

“I hope the security forces will look into this as well,” he said, adding that local communities should be the eyes and ears of enforcement teams.

Meanwhile, Wong commended the close relations and cooperation between the Sabah Fisheries Department and marine police in their effort to curb illegal activities at sea.

He said the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had seized five Vietnamese fishing vessels and crews from Sabah waters so far this year.

“Some of them have been charged and sentenced in court for their offences,” he added.

Wong said seized vessels would be destroyed and sunk once court cases were complete.

He said sunk vessels would become artificial reefs and allow for reproduction of marine life.

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Indonesia: Impacts of forest fires kill four in W. Kalimantan

The Jakarta Post 23 Aug 18;

The police have said four people had died in the past month because of forest fires in West Kalimantan.

West Kalimantan Police chief Insp. Gen. Didi Haryono said on Wednesday that four people from different regencies had died from different causes as a result of forest fires.

The two victims in Melawi regency named Vito, 7, and Rio, 11, experienced severe burns. Vito died on Aug. 12 near his house while Rio died on Aug. 16 after being transferred to Soedarso Hospital in Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan.

A resident of Sambas regency, Jaidan, 56, also died from smoke inhalation on Aug. 16, while trying to put out a fire in his farm.

The latest reported victim was Ensungga, 69, a resident of Sintang regency. His charred body was found on Monday. A day before, he left the house saying he wanted to put out a fire in his farm.

Didi said the impacts of forest fire were extremely dangerous.

“In terms of health, smoke inhalation can damage children's cerebral nerves and can cause disease,” he said.

Fire also disrupts the distribution of staple foods, he said.

Forest fires in the province are believed to be a result of slash-and-burn practices for land clearance. (sau/swd)

Water-bombing helicopters, artificial rain deployed to fight forest fires in W. Kalimantan
Karina M. Tehusijarana
The Jakarta Post 24 Aug 18;

Government agencies have deployed 10 water-bombing helicopters to extinguish forest and wildfires that have been plaguing West Kalimantan over the last month.

“The joint team continues its struggle to put out the forest and wildfires,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement on Thursday.

Besides the helicopters, the BNPB is also working with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the Indonesian Military (TNI) to create artificial rain by seeding clouds with sodium chloride, Sutopo added.

“It has rained unevenly in the past few days, which has helped reduce the fires,” he said.

As of Thursday, Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) satellites had detected 885 hot spots in the province, more than in any other province. Four people have died as a result of forest fires in the province over the last month.

Sutopo said the fires were exacerbated by the local custom of burning fields before clearing land during the dry season.

“The residents of the Sanggau, Sambas, Ketapang, and Kubu Raya regencies have a tradition called gawai serentak where they prepare for the planting season by burning,” he said. “The regional government has forbidden it but it is still practiced in many places.”

He added that local police would continue patrols to stop such deliberate burning.

The BMKG has also issued a warning that increasingly dry weather could trigger even more fires during the peak of the dry season from August to September. (swd)

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Indonesia: Aalhi calls for tighter control of peat land restoration process

Antara 23 Aug 18;

Peat land fir in Kubu Raya District, West Kalimantan, recently (ANTARA PHOTO/Sugeng Hendratno)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Non-governmental organization on environmental advocacy Walhi has urged the government to tighten control over peat land restoration process to prevent forest fires.

Campaign chief of Walhi Khalisah Khalid said information from the Environment and Forestry Ministry about peat land restoration by corporations was limited only to revision of working plan (RKU) with no information about the progress of the implementation.

The biggest challenge in the effort to cope with forest and peat land fires is the powerful corporate actors, which have so far been behind the forest fire problem, Khalisah said here on Wednesday.

The law enforcement commitment issued by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in 2015 and early 2016, had been weakened in the name of something irreversible giving corporations excuse to continue non compliance with the law, he said.

Law enforcement is more in the form of administrative sanction that gave no deterrent effect on corporations, he said.

Ironically, the targets of law enforcement had been diverted from corporations to local people, the farmers, he said.

The various statement of `shoot the perpetrators on sight` showed that security officers had failed to see that forest and peat land fires are structural problem caused by legal offense by actors with economic power, he added.

"We urge the President to immediately issue a policy of moratorium in oil palm plantation and large investment in other mono-culture. Otherwise we doubt we could ever reach the reform target in the forest and ecosystem of peat land management, and forest and peat land fires would continue to be a problem as restoration is much more difficult," he said.

South Kalimantan`s Walhi Director Kisworo Dwi Cahyono said committing forest and peat land on fire is an extraordinary crime, therefore, the president should establish a special court for environmental cases.

Walhi said law enforcement had failed in preventing forest and peat land fires in West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Sumatra.

The government should not be serious in fighting forest fires only because of the Asian Games, South Sumatra`s Walhi Director Muhammad Hairul Sobri said.

The country is hosting the 18th Asian Games held in Palembang, South Sumatra and Jakarta, and the government has sent police and the military to ensure that no forest fires that could send smokes to disrupt the event in Palembang.

Based on Walhi`s data from January to August 14, 2,173 hot spots were detected in various areas in the country including 779 in West Kalimantan and 368 in Riau.

Reporting by Virna P Setyorini


(T.SYS/B/H-ASG/S022) 23-08-2018 11:49:47
Editor: Otniel Tamindael

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'They are taking out a generation of tuna': overfishing causes crisis in Philippines

Men like Raul Gomez have been catching tuna for 40 years, but as fisheries in the region edge closer to collapse, he spends longer at sea to catch ever smaller tuna
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 23 Aug 18;

Raul Gomez is an old man who fishes with five crew on a clipper in the seas known as the coral triangle, and he has spent two months now without taking enough to feed his family.

Riding out storms and searing heat in western Pacific waters, the burly, sun-inked Filipino uses a pole and line to reel in yellowfin tuna the size of an adult human.

This has been his trade for 40 years, but it is becoming tougher as fisheries in this region – one of the planet’s most important centres of tuna production – face the prospect of total collapse.

Gomez did not hear the dire prediction this year by the world’s leading body of biodiversity scientists, who warned that exploitable fish reserves in Asia-Pacific waters were on course to crash to zero by 2048.

All he knows is that with every year that passes, he has to spend ever longer at sea to catch ever smaller tuna, at greater personal risk and lower reward.

Gomez says that when he started out at the age of 14, he and his father would sail from General Santos port to the Sarangani Bay on a small bangka (outrigger boat). One night was enough to return the next day with 10 tuna, often weighing in at more than 100kg.

But the global surge in demand for sushi, sashimi and tinned tuna has brought more competition and massive overfishing.

Today, the bay is largely fished out, as are most of the surrounding waters in the Mindanao Sea, so he voyages further in clippers that can spend months away from port. But as the boats get bigger, the tuna are getting smaller. These days, Gomez considers himself fortunate to take a bigeye tuna of 70kg.

On his latest trip, his share of the take is just 4,000 pesos – equivalent to £1 for each of the 60 days he spent at sea.

“It is harder now to make a living and feed my family,” he says.

As soon as his boat docks, Gomez unloads his catch and then immediately prepares to set out again to make up for lost income. Once the hold is refilled with ice, he will be gone.

The fisherman sees his wife and children just two or three times a year even though they live less than half an hour from the port. His eldest son comes to spend a few hours with him on the foredeck, knowing his father could be away not just for months, but for years.

‘It is total exploitation’

Gomez has been arrested and jailed three times for illegally fishing in Indonesia, where the tuna are more abundant. His Filipino boss – the owner of the boat – orders him across the maritime border, but takes no responsibility when Gomez gets caught. Instead, the fisherman has to find his own way home.

“It’s a kind of slavery,” says Gomez (who asked that his name be changed due to concerns about retribution). “At times, I’ve gone years at sea for no pay.”

This is far from unusual. More than 600 Filipino fishermen have been jailed by Indonesia. Almost all were subcontracted by boat owners who gave no help in repatriating them.

“It is total exploitation. The fishers have no choice. They know that if they don’t cross the border they won’t have their contracts extended,” says Benjamin Sumog-oy of the Sentro labour organisation. “The relationship is feudal. The workers are not recognised as employees. They cannot join unions. They have no rights, no salaries. It is semi-slavery.”

Consumers in rich nations increasingly get their protein from seafood, but the rush to cash in has put pressure on fishing crews, driven down the quality of catches and eroded the sustainability of fisheries.

Several tuna species are in peril. Bluefin are critically endangered with just 2% of their 1950 biomass left, bigeye recently fell below the 20% level necessary for replacement, and yellowfin are also down more than 70%.

Major fishing nations such as Japan and South Korea have tightened restrictions in their coastal waters. But big companies increasingly use foreign-flagged ships and less-regulated overseas ports, particularly in the western and central Pacific.

World’s ‘tuna capital’
General Santos, which proclaims itself the “tuna capital”, is at the heart of this region, which is where one in every two of the world’s tuna is caught.

Tuna landings have steadily increased and there are plans to expand the port further by 2021. But many grumble that too much of the business is geared towards big – often foreign – vessels using that land unsustainable catches of juvenile fish that would not be allowed in many other countries.

This leads to a rivalry inside the port, which cranks into life from 4am, when fishermen bring their catch to shore.

At Market One, pole-and-line fishermen like Gomez haul hefty adult fish over their shoulders along wooden planks to weighing machines, where they are hooked, measured and then carried to a bloodied table for butchering. At the highest end, traders email photographs of samples to buyers in Japan, South Korea, the US and Europe. The carcass is then packed with dry ice and sent to the nearby airport for freight via wholesalers to restaurants, sushi shops and supermarkets. Everything is done for a global market to global standards.

The story is very different at Market Two, which theoretically supplies domestic buyers. Bigger purse-seine ships dock here and discharge tonnes of smaller net-caught tuna on to a conveyer belt for sorting. Taking small, young fish would be prohibited in much of the world, but it is legal in the Philippines. While this may be necessary to feed a local population that has been largely priced out of the market for bigger fish, the bulk of this catch goes to canneries, which then sell to multinationals. A trader at Market One describes this as a form of tuna laundering.

A port regulator said warnings of fisheries disappearing before 2050 are realistic and terrifying.

“There are more fishers and less fish. That’s the problem,” said the official. “There will have to be restrictions in the future.”

Four years ago, the Philippines was given a yellow card over its fisheries by the European Union, prompting the government to pass a stricter fishing law. But there is still no harvesting strategy and illegal and unregulated fishing remains commonplace.

During the Guardian’s visit, young yellowfin and big-eye – none more than 50cm long – were seen on the conveyor belt from ships into General Santos market.

“There is a lot of illegal fishing in General Santos,” says Vince Cinches, Philippines oceans campaigner for Greenpeace south-east Asia. “They are taking out a generation of tuna.”

Harvest limits, better monitoring and traceability – not to mention unionisation – could also help fishers such as Gomez, who feels the pressure of declining stocks and rising demand more than anyone.

For now though, what the old salt catches he cannot afford to eat; what he earns is no longer enough for his family. His wife is now the main breadwinner and the main dish on the dinner table is ever more likely to be chicken than tuna.

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